Sabotage? Ukraine Denies Blowing Up Crimean Air Base

Sabotage? Ukraine Denies Blowing Up Crimean Air Base

Video footage of the aftermath of the explosion circulated widely on social media, and local eyewitnesses claimed that the shockwave from the blast had broken windows near the airfield.

A massive explosion at the Saki military airfield, near the city of Novofedorovka in the Crimean Peninsula, caused significant damage to the airfield and its surrounding buildings after an ammunition dump at the site detonated, according to Russia’s state-run RT media network.

Video footage of the aftermath of the explosion circulated widely on social media, and local eyewitnesses claimed that the shockwave from the blast had broken windows near the airfield. Although the Russian government initially claimed that no one had been injured in the explosion, Sergey Aksyonov, the region’s Russian provincial governor, later claimed that one person had been killed and six others injured. The attack also led to an exodus of Russian tourists from Crimea, a popular destination during Russia’s traditional summer holiday season.

Although the cause of the explosion was initially unclear, Russian authorities insisted that it had been accidental, and Russia’s official TASS news agency later claimed that a fire had broken out at the ammunition storage facility due to a “violation of fire safety requirements.” In the aftermath of the explosion, Aksyonov claimed that families living near the airfield would be relocated as a precaution, and insisted that no one who had suffered materially from the blasts would be left “without help.”

Although outside observers quickly speculated that the Ukrainian military had attacked the airport, the Ukrainian defense ministry denied its involvement in a statement.

“The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot establish the cause of the fire,” the statement read, before reminding the Russian military “of the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places.”

Mykhailo Podoliak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, also denied Ukraine’s involvement during an interview with Russia’s “TV Rain” opposition television channel, but did not rule out the possibility of sabotage, speculating that it might have been caused by “someone representing the [Ukrainian] partisan movement” within Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“People who have lived under occupation understand that the time of occupation is coming to an end and they need to show their position,” Podoliak claimed. “This is because the reclaiming of [Crimea] is meant to happen.”

Podoliak later celebrated the explosion on Twitter, writing that “the demilitarization of the Russian Federation is an integral part of ensuring global security”—a mocking reference to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s claim in the early hours of the war that the objective of the invasion was to “demilitarize” Ukraine.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.